Ink-Stained Scribe

Quick Fic Friday - Selene

Photo by llorias of flickr (her stuff is fantastic!)
Here's a quick fic sample - something I wrote because I was inspired. A story opening! Be sure to share yours on your blog and leave it in the comments.

Adryn and I came up with a new set of characters the other day. The story is one for the back-burner (or possibly something to be serialized).

This is probably one of the better openings I've written, and I did it by studying openings of a few YA books I like. I'm rather excited it worked out so well. Let me know what you think!


The morning before Kevin found me, I woke up face down beneath a rosebush with a pair of pruning shears in my hand. My first thought after the where-the-hell-am-I’s had been answered was whether Mark could get back any of the money he'd spent on my therapy, since the psychiatrist had declared me “over” both the brainwashing of my mother’s insanity and, by the power of puberty, my somnambulant ways. He probably couldn’t. I had a feeling this relapse was less indicative of my therapist’s failure to exorcise the crazy and more a sign of post-exam week stress.

That was it. The weird tingle between my shoulder blades was nothing. It was just the muscles in my back, tense from too long bent over a textbook, trying to wrap my brain around physics the way that thorny vine of numbness now twined around my spine. I always got the tingle before one of my nocturnal jaunts. It was how my body responded to stress—by tensing up, cutting off circulation. And by getting up at 4 a.m. and staggering out into the back garden to take it out on the rosebush my adopted mother had planted. Woops.

Several small rips marred the cuff of my pajamas where thorns had snagged it, and it had been those sharp stabs that brought me back to consciousness. I stared in resignation at the constellation of red spots blossoming on the light green polyester. Blood stains were hard to get out.

It was still dark morning, and dew-soaked dirt pressed against my stomach and breasts, setting a spreading stain of moisture creeping up the front of my clothes. Another set of birthday pajamas, sacrificed to whatever sadistic sandman giggled above my bed at night. It was my own fault, really; I should have known by now that nice pajamas weren’t compatible with my lifestyle.

The rich scents of earth and flowers filled my nose, cut by the sharp, sweet perfume of the corn field beyond our picket fence. Yes, a picket fence. This is the midwest. We're like that.

I groaned and sucked in my bottom lip, pushing up onto my hands and easing my head and shoulders from the spiked grasp of the rosebush. I shoved myself back onto my knees and sat up to assess the damage. My straight black hair had escaped its bun in clumps and my hands and knees were streaked with dirt. I looked around, noting that my brain had, for some reason, spared my clematis and morning glories. My hydrangeas were safe, my pear tree looked perky, and the herb garden was lush and sparkling with dew. The one thing in the back garden that wasn’t mine—Janie’s 40th anniversary rosebush—was the one thing my subconscious had seen fit to destroy. Damn, my subconscious was a bitch.

The dreams are back. The thought rolled across my mind like a sudden, chill breeze, and I shivered. No. I was wet and mud-covered, wearing dew-damp polyester in the wee hours of a chilly Michigan morning. That’s why I was shivering. In June.

I chafed my arms and climbed to my feet. Shit. I’d begun to hope my transition to the dormitories would be relatively free of awkward explanations. Not so much, I guess, considering I was zombie-crawling through the mud in my back yard a week from high school graduation. What was I going to say when I woke up in an iced-over dorm parking lot in nothing but panties and a big tee shirt? How was I going to get back in the building at 4 a.m. with no key card and no cell phone? It was bound to happen.

“A lot of kids sleepwalk,” Jamie had said when she and Mark agreed to take me in for those first few weeks. The social worker—I think her name was Kelly—had been standing behind me. She’d put both hands on my shoulders and leaned forward, pitching her voice low, as if the adult-like seriousness of her tone would render the words incomprehensible to my nine-year-old ears.

“Not like Selene.”

Adults had always done that around me—saying things I understood in that “adult” voice, acting like I couldn’t understand them because I just wasn’t supposed to. That tone meant I should conveniently forget English and let the adults have their private conversation about me, in front of me, without listening. I did understand it, though, and I was angry at the social worker for treating me like some abused animal with bad habits that might just be too much trouble to train out.

“Not like Selene.” The words stuck with me, cutting me off from any sense that I was normal, echoing in the back of my head every time I made a friend or started to have fun with regular kids. I was different. I was damaged. I was dangerous.

Fed up, I’d rolled my eyes, thrust out both hands, and said it. “She means when I sleepwalk, I do magic.”

I still remember the look on their faces, the nervous laughter from the social worker and the sad, understanding smile from Jamie. I’d known they told her about mom, and what mom had taught us, and what we didn’t know any better than to believe.

“She draws on things,” the social worker corrected, pulling my shoulders back agains her as a reminder that I was supposed to be temporarily deaf. “Sometimes she hurts herself or breaks things or talks about her dreams like they’re real.”

“They are real, though! They always happen.”

“Hush, Selene. The grown-ups are talking.”

“Ask Kevin, he’ll tell you!”

Another knowing look.

Kevin was, of course, my brother. He was three years older than me, too old—by the standards of People Who Apparently Know—to fully recover from the teachings of my parents’ cult, or the trauma of what had happened with mom. We’d moved around a lot with our parents, before dad died and mom got worse, and Kevin had always been my best friend, my supporter, my collaborator. He was the one that saved me from mom.

They’d promised to do their best to keep us together, but that was bullshit. It didn’t take a month for them to send me to a “temporary” home with Jamie and Mark and ship my brother off to the first, worst foster home for kids with no hope of assimilating into the real world. They’d promised I could see him on holidays, but that was bullshit too. After I went home with Jamie and Mark, I never left, and I never saw my brother again, except in dreams. Then, one night when I was 12, I saw him die.

By then, I’d come to accept that my vivid nightmares were reactions to the fantasies my parents had put in my head—inventions of a mind poisoned by fear, sickness, and torture. My brother was not dead. He certainly hadn’t drowned tangled up in fishing nets, dragged down by some monstrous construct. My dream had been another reaction. A few months before, I’d gotten the news that he’d run away from his 6th foster home. They’d said they were looking, but I don’t think the system tried that hard to find him. The drowning bit, naturally, was a lingering fear of my own. Of course I’d project it onto my worry over my missing brother.

Sometimes I still saw that image, though, the stark silhouette of his body, his floating limbs trapped by nets that etched out mosaic bits of ocean, the whole scene illuminated in lambent flashes of green.
If he was dead, it hadn’t happened like that. And it didn’t really matter anyway: he was good as dead, lost to me forever, gone. The story of my life had turned past chapters with him in it.

At least, I thought it had.